NDN Blog

The ABC Movie

I've been following the news about the upcoming ABC movie "Path to 9/11" closely.  I am an ABC alumni, having worked at ABC News in the 1980s.  I still know people who work there, and look back at that time as a lucky and wonderful period of my life. 

From everything I've read it is clear ABC blew it on this one.  I'm not sure how it happened, but the movie is sloppy and inaccurate; the way the network promoted it showed they understood the right would be happy and the Democrats unhappy; reports late last night indicate ABC's partner, Scholastic, the publisher of Harry Potter and other school materials, has pulled their "educational" materials about the film from their web site; and their refusal to allow government officials portrayed to even screen the movie in advance is bizarre and irresponsible, contributing to the sense that there is rightwing conspiracy behind the film.   

Given what has happened, and how important the subject matter is, the film should be pulled.  Instead turn the time over to ABC News to host live roundtable discussions with representatives of all involved to talk about 9/11, Iraq, and the future of American foreign policy.  Given all the controversy, the viewership of these programs would be huge, the public service extraordinary. 

The problem for ABC is that they using public airwaves to promote a private, or partisan, agenda.  If this was HBO, or even a commercial movie, this would not be as much of an issue.  But these are our airwaves not theirs; and they have to be held to a higher standard. 

Kudos to Media Matters, Think Progress, Working Assests, MyDD, NPI fellow Jennifer Nix and the many others who have led this very new style campaign against this unfortunate film. 

NDN in the News

NDN's Hispanic Strategy Center Director Joe Garcia is in Hispanic Business today discussing Florida's gubenatorial candidates possibly picking a Hispanic for lieutenant governor.

"For the first time we will see that candidates who win the primaries will have to seriously consider a Hispanic for lieutenant governor," EFE was told by Joe Garcia, former executive director of the Cuban American National Foundation and senior adviser in Florida for the New Democrat Network, which in 2002 launched an initiative to consolidate Latinos' connection with the party....Garcia said that the campaigns of both parties are working hard to win the Hispanic vote and even have directors of Latino affairs to make sure they do...."The number of Hispanic voters in Florida is almost 15 percent and it is the most changeable vote of any group in the state," he said.

 

Flynt Leverett on the Discredited Bush Foreign Policy

I had a chance to hear Flynt Leverett, former Senior Director for Middle East affairs at the National Security Council speak at the New America Foundation yesterday.  Expanding on his essay in the September edition of the American Prospect, he talked about the decision making he observed during the year he spent as the top advisor on the Middle East at the White House.  His critique was clear: this administration is not bumbling and incompetent in their approach to the Middle East, rather they have launched a great foreign policy experiment with disastrous consequences. 

Leverett talked about the decision to walk away from diplomacy, when countries like Syria and Iran were looking to cooperate and improve relations with the United States following September 11th and the defeat of the Taliban.

He also discussed the move away from establishing a credible position on the Israeli-Palestinian question, just as US leadership was needed to restore peace and improve US credibility in the region. 

These decisions and many others were rooted in ideology and the result is a less stable Middle East where the Kissinger maxim that the US should marginalize radicals and empower moderates has been turned on its head.  Today, US policy has actually empowered radicals such as Ahmadinejad in Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas, Assad in Syria, etc.

Leverett also disputed the Bush Administration line that more Democracy in the Middle East equals less terrorism, citing the three "poster children" for Middle East Democracy: Iraq, Lebanon and Afghanistan.  In these cases, forcing Democracy on societies not prepared for it has lead to more instability.

Finally, on a political note, I observed that Leverett never used the terms neo-conservative or neocon. Instead he referred to “Bush Foreign Policy.” I think this is smart, because it ties the discredited foreign policy to the increasingly discredited and unpopular president. Neo-conservatism did not exist as a governing philosophy before this President and it will soon go back to the Ivory Tower where it belongs. It is important that blame for the foreign policy debacles of the past six years falls squarely on the shoulders of this President, and not on a faceless ideology.

 

Immigration reform and the GOP - the shame of it all

In his Monday column this week Robert Novak hits the GOP hard for failing to pass a meaningful immigration bill:

"Immigration is the most melancholy element of a depressing Republican year. The Iraq intervention and its aftermath have hurt, and Republican inattention to runaway government spending has been deplorable. But immigration is the issue most likely to cause rank-and-file Republican voters to stay home on Election Day, and it may cost the party its congressional majorities."

As I wrote this morning, the failure of the immigration bill is a potent symbol of the failure of these modern Republicans to tackle the important challenges of our time.  From the right to the left all wanted to do something this year.  A good and sensible bi-partisan bill was offered.  The President supported it.  As did all 44 Democrats in the Senate, and most Democrats in the House.  A little bit of work - that thing called governing - could have brought everyone together to solve a vexing national challenge.  But they couldn't do it.  They couldn't find common ground in their own party.  

In the process the Republicans have angered both their own base, and the many immigrants who believed this President and his Party that would be different. 

So, in the great modern Republican tradition, when that governing thing doesn't work, what does one do? Politics.  Blame others.  Use TV ads to demonize your opponent.  Attack them for being with "the other."

Using immigration as a blunt weapon against an opponent is being tried right now in Rhode Island.  The National Republican Party, through its Senate arm, has been running an ad on behalf of Lincoln Chafee accusing his opponent Steve Laffey of accepting a Mexican ID in his town where he has been mayor.  The ad then says that the FBI has said that these IDs could be used by terrorists to get other IDs. 

What's remarkable about this ad full of brown faces and terrorists is that using this ID is common practice across the United States, and is sanctioned by the Treasury Department.  It is not all that unreasonable, as it is a government issued ID by our largest neighbor, and a friendly one to boot. 

Mexicans.  IDs.  FBI.  Terrorists.  I see. 

So Bush promotes sensible immigration reform.  His Party balks.  His Party runs ads equating immigrants to terrorists in a Republican primary.  He stays silent. 

Imagine what they gonna use against Democrats, who actually tried to work with him to pass the good McCain-Kennedy Bill.  Gonna be a difficult and troubling fall. 

Announced: AP Mobile Election Results

The Associated Press (AP) just announced a new mobile service covering election results:

"The service, called AP Mobile Election Results, features Crisp’s content management, delivery and application development platform and is designed specifically for the AP’s customer base, which includes newspapers and broadcasters.

"The mobile device is rapidly becoming the tool for mobilizing social and political audiences, and the delivery of on-demand election information has tremendous political, social, and commercial value to a wide variety of customers," said Boris Fridman, CEO of Crisp Wireless. "The Mobile Election Results service combines content from AP, one of the premier global news organizations, and an easily-customizable news service...

 

Republicans bet the farm on Security

Several pieces over the weekend preview the fall Republican strategy - argue that electing Democrats will weaken the war on terror, making us less safe.  To do that, the Times reports today, they will have to give up a passing the pending immigration bill.  Not a big suprize, given that the House Rs believe attacking Democrats for being soft on immigration - meaning that they support the bill passed by the Senate and supported by President Bush - will be one of their key issues this fall. 

To me the collapse of the immigration bill is a clear and potent sign of why the Rs are in trouble this fall.  An unprecendented bi-partisan bill is created, bringing together labor, business, immigration groups and folks like NDN.  It is supported by Bush.  It passes the Senate.  The President gives his only prime time speech this year promoting it.  It is a good bill, going a long way to solving the vexing immigration problem.  But of course these guys, who have shown themselves to be so good at politics and so bad at governing, can't pass it.  And so today we learn that is won't pass.  No big suprize here. 

But what comes next is millions of dollars of ads saying that Democrats weakness on border issues is creating more terrorists.  We saw it in an NRSC ad for Lincoln Chafee against a fellow Republican two weeks ago.  So it is coming.  But Democrats have nothing to fear.  We have a plan - the Senate bill, supported by McCain and Bush - that solves the immigration problem.  They have "seal the border."  Ours is a plan that will work, there's is a press conference.  We can win this battle this fall, with the American people, on tv ads. 

But this security first and only strategy leaves exposed what is a major Republican weakness this fall - the economy.  The Post has a very good story on this today, and a new CNN poll released last night shows now that the economy is the number one issue of voters today.  From the Post piece:

"At first glance, the economy's role in this year's midterm elections is a puzzle. Economic growth and unemployment are at levels that in past years would have been a clear political asset for the party in power.

But one layer down in the statistics, the answer is more clear. Flat wages and rising debt nationally have converged to leave millions of middle-class households feeling acutely vulnerable to bumps in their financial planning. The most visible of these are rising energy prices and a softening housing market.

A less obvious but powerful variable is the interest paid by people carrying credit card debt or mortgages whose monthly payments vary with interest rates. People buffeted by these trends have given rise to a new and volatile voting block.

"People like this are making a large ripple across the body politic," said Republican pollster Bill McInturff of Public Opinion Strategies. When added to the growing opposition to the war in Iraq, he said, worry about this economic crunch "is creating a political environment that is not that friendly to the party in power."

Every election cycle has its own important set of undecided, or swing, voters. In 2000, it was the "soccer moms," targeted by both parties with appeals based on education and quality-of-life concerns. In 2004, it was the security moms, normally Democratic-trending women whose concerns about terrorism helped give Bush his margin of victory.

This year could mark the emergence of what might be called mortgage moms -- voters whose sense of well-being is freighted with anxiety about their families' financial squeeze. Democrats are betting that this factor is strong enough to trump security or cultural values issues."

The rise of the economy as an issue should come as no suprize to NDNers.  Our globalization project has been banging on this theme for 18 months.  And we've been working hard, for over a year, to pass meaningful immigration reform.  No matter how salient the security issues are this fall, for a governing party to ignore the current economic plight of average Americans, and let a good and sensible immigration reform bill collapse, says more about why they may lose power than the epic failure of their foreign policy. 

So you want to be a video star...

Hey, people are watcing - 100 million you tube downloads per day. Did we mention, that was - per day! You know it's you. Procrastinating at work, again. You should be ashamed.

Read here.

The lessons of history

Defeating "Islamic Fascism."  This week defeating Islamic Fascists became the primary goal of our foreign policy.  But can this can be our primary goal?  What can history, for example, tell us?

Let's look at the lesson of World War II.  In that era our national strategy was to foster democracy, the rule of law, liberty and free markets around the world.  We defeated the fascists of that era, who were a virulent threat to our vision, through war; and built lasting democracies and peace through institutions like the United Nations, NATO, the IMF, the World Bank and the far-sighted investments of the Marshall Plan.  Defeating the fascists of that time was a tactic, a way of getting to the end goal - global peace and prosperity, and flourishing democracies that cherished liberty, the rule of law and open markets. 

Bush and co seem to have no similar strategy.  They seem only concerned to with defeating those who disagree with us through war; they have no serious strategy for achieving lasting peace and prosperity, or deploying the formula that worked so well after WWII - democracy, the rule of law, liberty and free markets.  

If we are to learn the lessons of history - as this Administration suggests - then we must get much more serious about promoting - in word and deed - our commitment to the formula that worked so well before.  But this means that in bringing peace and prosperity to the Middle East hat there can be no sacrifice of our commitment to liberty through warrantless spying; no sacrifice of our commitment to Geneva conventions; no sacrifice of our commitment to the rule of law by allowing political parties with funded militias to participate in democratic elections; or no "nation building" in Iraq without a serious plan or a serious political commitment to bring it about. 

The Bush Administration has confused means with ends.  The end goal of foreign policy should be to foster a peaceful and prosperous world.  Defeating "Islamic Fascism" is certainly one of the main tactics we should use to achieve our goals, but it cannot be an end in itself.  To me that is the greatest lesson of World War II.  As we re-learning in Iraq today. 

NDN: Finishing Strong

As we prepare for the home stretch, I am proud of the contribution NDN and its family and affiliates have made this cycle.  Over the next few weeks I will be writing about the transformation of NDN over these past few years, from a centrist PAC called the New Democrat Network to the advocacy and strategy center now called NDN.  We may no longer have a federal PAC, and be endorsing candidates as we did, but we are making an important contribution to restoring the promise of our great nation, and giving others the tools to also make themselves more effective at this critical time. 

Expect a great deal of activity from NDN and our affiliates these next two months.  We will be focusing on three distinct campaigns: mas que un partido, tools and wages.  The first, conducted by our affiliates, the NDN political fund, is speaking to the hopes of Hispanics through a sustained national Spanish-language media campaign.  NPI's tools campaign is helping progressives learn and use four new tools - cable, search, blogs and Spanish-language media.  Finally, our wages campaign, begun 18 months ago, is working to put declining wages front and center in the national debate. 

Of course there will be more, as there always is, with NDN.  But these three powerful campaigns is how we are closing in this critical year.  Each of them have already made a significant impact, but there is much more we can and must do together. 

New NPI Report on "Mobile Media in 21st Century Politics"

We just released a terrific new report today on mobile media in politics that you can get in pdf form on the New Politics Institute website. It's written by Tim Chambers, one of our new fellows who has been posting on this NDN blog, and his business partner, Rob Sebastian. You can go there directly through the links above, or read the preface that I wrote to get an overview below:

The impact of new Internet tools on politics is getting all the attention in the fall of 2006, but a whole new terrain is opening up that will also have big political consequences in the year or two ahead. The mobile phone has evolved from simply a voice communicator to a hub for mobile media. That small screen on your phone is beginning to take its place alongside the personal computer and television as an important way to connect to Americans.

Each of these screens has unique capabilities that can be used in politics. Mobile phone media, unlike media channeled through TV and PCs, allow people to connect anytime, anywhere. Today 80 percent of voting age Americans have mobile phones and an increasing number are becoming savvy at using them to create and consume media.

Some constituencies are more savvy or dependent on mobile phones than others. Two key groups in are of special concern to progressives. Any majority political movement of the early 21st century will need to connect to the massive young generation of Millennials, and the booming population of Hispanics. Both groups are among the top users of mobile phone media.

The development of mobile media is not going to take place in the distant future. As this report points out, mobile media has already proved to have had big political impacts in other countries, and it played a key role in the immigration demonstrations all over the United States this spring. Now is the time for progressive political practitioners to start to engage this new technology and media. The report ends with seven concrete steps to begin mastering this new world.

The very first step, though, is to get an overview of the whole booming field by reading this comprehensive paper. It is filled with startling facts and figures that will help even those who think they understand what is going on:

Did you know that mobile video services already reach more users than the 8th largest cable operator in the country? That by 2008 as many as 30 percent of wireless phone users will not own a land line? (What will political pollsters do?) That last year U2’s Bono got 800,000 people to sign up for the One Campaign to eradicate poverty by sending a test message through their mobile phones at his concerts?

Much is already happening, but much more is to come. The New Politics Institute wants to help progressives figure this out. This report was done by one of the New Politics Institute’s new fellows, Tim Chambers, and his business partner Rob Sebastian in a new wireless company. They are generously passing on what they know to up the game of the progressive movement as a whole.

Peter Leyden
Director of the New Politics Institute

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